Offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening and Day Auctions respectively, Cecily Brown’s Blonde Eating Birds, 2011-2012, and Henry Taylor’s Adam Janes, 2011, stem from an important private collection of international contemporary art. Built over a twelve-year period, the collection is committed to supporting emerging, mid-career and established artists, displaying their work in public and private exhibition spaces across the world. At its heart lies a passion for contemporary painting, showcasing works defined by their tactile, colourful surfaces. These two outstanding canvases demonstrate the thrilling new directions that artists have sought for the medium in the twenty-first century.
Rendered with extraordinary empathy is Henry Taylor’s portrait Adam Janes. The artist is included in this year’s Venice Biennale exhibition May You Live In Interesting Times. Painted in 2011, Taylor’s almost life-size portrait represents his friend, the performance artist Adam Janes, in bright, blocked colour. Peering persistently yet cheerfully ahead, Janes stands in an empty room, his green shirt a vibrant chromatic pop against the crimson ground. Characteristic of the artist, the room is abstract and lacking in detail, and yet Janes appears wholly grounded in the real world. Taylor paints people either from his African American community in Los Angeles or the art world, but all his paintings share a sense of profound intimacy and understanding, perhaps owing to his decade spent working as a psychiatric nurse concurrent to his studies at the California Institute of the Arts. Indeed, his is a levelled gaze, evoking an exchange between painter and subject. Although these are likenesses, Taylor’s subjective form of seeing ‘goes way beyond the brute fact of a body. Other people look; Taylor sees’ (Z. Smith, ‘Promiscuous Painting’, The New Yorker, 30 July 2018, p. 27). In Adam Janes, the accrual of matte colour geometries lend the subject a corporeal and psychological intensity.